Native Bees of the Siskiyous

Get to know native flora and fauna! Take a field course with the Siskiyou Field Institute!

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SFI’s Native Bees of the Siskiyous class netting native bees for observation at Page Mountain. We found different species of bees on flowering plants such as snowbrush (Ceanothus velutinus) and whipplevine (Whipplea modesta).

Have you ever wanted to learn more about native bees and native plant pollination? I highly recommend taking Siskiyou Field Institute’s (SFI) Native Bees of the Siskiyous course, taught by native bee expert, Robbin Thorp. Last weekend I attended this course and was really glad I did. SFI’s field courses are always so good. Being a lover of native plants and natural ecosystems, it’s only natural to want to understand as much as possible about the native pollinators these plants depend on for their reproduction, and vice versa — the mutualism between bees and flowering plants is fascinating!

World-renowned native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology, was the recipient of the 2015 UC Davis Distinguished Emeritus Award for his outstanding scholarly work and service accomplished since his retirement in 1994. He is the co-author of Bumble Bees of California: An Identification Guide (2014, Princeton University Press) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (2014, Heyday Books).

The Siskiyou Field Institute is an amazing resource for getting in-depth, field-based knowledge about the amazing Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion. Check out their courses!

Below are some photos from the course:

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Course instructor, Robbin Thorp holding and observing a male Fernald cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus flavidus). Cuckoo bumble bees are social parasites. Females infiltrate a host colony, kill the queen and usurp the nest in order to have the host colonies’ workers feed her and her young. Native bee nesting and reproduction strategies are complex. 

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Robbin Thorp holding a male Fernald cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus flavidus). Because male bumble bees do not have a stinger you can gently hold one to feel it “buzz!” 

 

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Vosnesensky bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) queen foraging on pussy paws (Calyptridium umbellatum) on serpentine soil along the road to Bolan Lake.

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Vosnesensky bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) queen in a vial for observation in the field. She was collected on June 11th and was estimated to be about a month old. She will be inseminated by a male, fatten up, and soon go into a hibernation that will last until early spring. This queen was larger than any other bee we collected during the class. She was a beauty!

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Bees are hard to ID when they are flying around and foraging. Using vials is a good way to temporarily get a good look at them. We collected three different black tail bumble bees (Bombus melanopygus) in vials for observation. Males and females have different characteristics, and in the Klamath-Siskiyou this species has two different color patterns: red form and black form. These different characteristics and color patterns within a single species can make bumble bee ID difficult.

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Bee specimens collected for this same course at SFI’s Deer Creek Center in 2015. The bees are grouped according to species.

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Robbin Thorp’s collection of the rare western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis) and the possibly extinct Franklin’s bumble bee (Bombus franklinii). Note the size variations between queens, males and females. The queens are the largest.